This is a topic I have been wanting to talk about for some time. I have found many times when parents come for consultation there’s either an apparent or hidden undercurrent of “I haven’t done enough, it’s my fault”. Even the good intention of “what more can I do for my child’s betterment?” is often tinged with a feeling of guilt of not doing enough.
Guilt may be useful only to the extent that it spurs a person into action. Beyond that first experience or thought of guilt, it only has negative effects. Firstly it brings the energy of the person experiencing it down. Thus as we are not in our own calm centre but wallowing in negative emotion, the chances of us getting irritated, feeling dissatisfied are greatly increased. It disturbs the peace at home and the equation between parent and child may become distanced or disharmonious.
Guilt may spur us into action but the action we take has to come from a positive expectation of life. What happens when we take actions while still feeling guilty. Firstly the actions themselves can be just to mitigate our guilt without really pondering over the long term consequences. One of the most common is overcompensation. When we are in guilt mode we are susceptible to getting manipulated. Parents give in to children and fill them up with toys and whatever the child asks for within their reach instead of developing meaningful connection. The child learns to fill the lacunae in their lives by mechanical means rather than developing strong emotional connection. Second is the transference of guilt onto our children. Unknowingly to make ourselves feel less unworthy some of it is passed onto our children as their faults or shortcomings. Thus we project our unworthiness onto our children. We hold them responsible for us landing in the tight spot and rob them of their self esteem. Now there’s nothing wrong with showing where they are lacking to our children but the intention and the way it’s communicated has to be taken into account.
Parenting is a long journey. It’s impossible to map out all variables and predict outcomes accurately. We make decisions, we stumble, we get up, do better and move along. And this process of lifelong learning keeps repeating. Did you as a parent purposefully do things with the intention of harming your child. The obvious answer is NO. Then in my opinion there’s no case for guilt. We may say to ourselves “ I should have known better” but aren’t awareness and knowledge ever expanding. If we learn and resolve to make better decisions we shouldn’t let guilt take over us. That’s often my advice to parents who confess to guilt.
Moreover I often advise parents to see the story forward from this point onwards and portray themselves accordingly. Whatever actions are suggested to be taken from a positive frame of mind. If you consult a therapist or parenting coach but remain guilt ridden, any steps that they share first you will not be able to implement it correctly. Secondly you will doubt the efficacy of steps as well as your own efficacy. And in that state of not feeling capable enough it’s likely that you will not be able to implement actions as they ought to be done.
If you feel something is going amiss, pause, take stock, find solutions and take action. Keep a check at regular intervals rather than letting the events come to a catastrophe before you are spurred into action. Decisions can be said to be good or bad in hindsight. Give yourselves the kindness and compassion for not knowing the future in advance. When kids grow up seeing it as part of their family culture it will become their model. It’s one of the best gifts you can give your child. Here’s to shedding the load of guilt.